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Image Choosing your Legacy

Lately, a number of things have set me thinking about legacy. The historic victory in the US Presidential elections of Senator Barack Obama, the son of a Black African man, was one. Meeting a cancer survivor who's still around to tell her tale 18 months after her doctor gave her six months to live was another. And reflecting on how I have used my time during 2008 was yet another.

But it was after a long discussion with a senior African American executive about role models and careers that I really got to wondering about what I want my legacy to be - and how I could influence that from where I am today.

My American friend's definition of success is, he said, a function of how much a person has been able to positively influence another. So, if the measure of a person is not the riches they have accumulated in their lifetime but the extent to which they have made a positive impact on others, what should steer our choice of legacy?

Authenticity in Action

If our true legacy is not about how much money we are planning on leaving to our children but about how many children we have supported and empowered to make their own money, what should shape our own approach to life?

Well, speaking of children, anyone who has ever spent any time with them will tell you that there's no point saying one thing and doing another. Kids have an uncanny and inconvenient ability to not only notice but quite loudly point out any contradictions between what you've told them to do and what they see you doing.

My American friend's definition of success is, he said, a function of how much a person has been able to positively influence another.

Creating the right type of legacy, then, has to be about authentic behaviour. To make a positive impact on people, we have to make positive choices in terms of what we do and how we lead our lives. While we won't get it right all the time, choosing a legacy must entail a commitment to trying.

Values and Legacy

What we choose to leave behind will be shaped by our values; by what we wish to be known for. What are the traits and characteristics that we would like others to admire and what are the principles that we would wish our observers to emulate?

While 'here lies the world's greatest shopper' engraved on a tombstone might be enough for some, it's a fair bet that most people crave the satisfaction of knowing that they made a difference to someone other than their credit card companies.

Yet how do you share values when you may not even be aware of what they are? How many of us have ever taken the time to explicitly think about what our personal values are? By this, I mean, how we would describe to someone our view of the world and how we believe we should live it. Often our notion of what we would consider 'right' or 'wrong' is seen in how we react to a situation or event, rather than as a principle that we can articulate. To choose our legacy, we need to be able to define what we stand for before there's ever a need to demonstrate it.

Legacy and Service

I believe that choosing our legacy is not about having to find greatness, fame or even notoriety. We are not all born to be 'great' in terms of public acclaim or high profile celebrity. But we can all enable greatness.

When we take the time to appreciate how the way we choose to live will impact on those in our families, our workplaces and our communities, we can make better choices about what we do and what we will be then remembered for.

What we choose to leave behind will be shaped by our values; by what we wish to be known for.

According to recent research, more than 90% of full-time working mothers polled in a survey said that they are a good role model for their children and more than half say they are happy to combine parenthood with a career. For such working mothers, their legacy is likely to include success in instilling in others the values of hard work, personal sacrifice - and multi-tasking.

If you had to write your own obituary today, how would you describe your legacy? Rather than seeing it as a morbid task and one best avoided, might it instead be an opportunity to start to define not just what you have already achieved but what you are capable of achieving?

As we reflect on the passing of another year and plan for the next, let's also make a plan for how we would wish to be remembered.

In This Issue

In this issue we cross the waters to find out how Ghanaian professionals in Ireland are coming together to support each other and to promote investment and opportunity in Ghana.

A fascinating survey in the United States sheds some light on how Black women spend their money and highlights the commercial potential to US businesses of this group of consumers.

If you need some advice on how to progress your career in these difficult economic times, take a look at our 5 tips for developing your career in a tight job market. While it may not be the best time to jump ship on your job, if you are stuck in a job that offers no challenge or prospects, the advice from our Careers Coach this month could be just what you need.

The Association of Business Executives has been offering its qualifications to African professionals for many years. In 'Training Africa's Professionals' we look at how three Africans are using their ABE qualification to open new doors in their careers.

If you find you are looking forward to the end of a meeting before it even starts, it might be time to revise the way things are done in your workplace. Lin Zagovsky's tongue in cheek advice offers some insights on what not to do if you really want to make the most of meetings.

This month we publish again the '5 Minute Interview' with Everest Ekong as a tribute to the award-winning founder and CEO of the Business in Africa Group, who passed away earlier this year. Everest's legacy is evident in the business he established, the awards he established to enable the development of journalists in Africa and in the efforts he championed to promote social and economic development in Africa. May he rest in peace.

In 'Learning the Business of Africa', we look back at our interview with Professor Franklyn Manu on the work of the Assocation of African Business Schools and how it is meeting the challenge of raising the standards of the continent's Business Schools.

December sees an extensive range of events taking place in the UK and overseas and our Events listing give you details of what's on this month.

As ever, we report on news from the UK and around the world and bring you an overview of news from across the African continent.

ReConnect Africa Members’ Forum

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